My husband and I recently converted a Toyota 4Runner so that we can travel the country, and we knew we’d be bringing along our two dogs. (We also use a towable camper trailer.) This past winter, I decided to add a third dog to the pack. Do I enjoy absolute chaos at all times? Absolutely. Does the amount of dog poop I have to pick up feel about 10x more? You bet. Yet, I absolutely love the chaos, the wet dog kisses, and those annoying but expected muddy dog prints all over the bed. Camping with dogs can be challenging, but it’s also the best kind of camping.
Meet the pack! Harper is a 6-year-old German Shorthair Pointer, Caz is a 5-year-old German Shorthair Point, and Aspen is an 8-month-old Wired Hair Pointing Griffon. From the first day we brought home Aspen, he was packed up on his first camping weekend. Albeit a different kind of camping — we winter camped at our favorite local ski mountain. In true adventure dog fashion, he had a blast!
Since he joined the pack this winter, we’ve traveled to Oregon, California, Death Valley National Park, Utah and back to Washington. Our new pup has gone from hiking on a leash to being able to run with his brothers and recall as if he’s been training for years.
Whether I’m winter camping at the slopes or living part-time on the road for work as a photographer, I’ve had to find the best products for camping with dogs. Taking care of the dogs while keeping them happy is a big task, but it also keeps me sane on the road. If you love dogs and chaos as much as I do, then I wanted to share some of the dog camping gear and pet accessories I depend on while traveling.
Because learning how to camp with a dog is a learning process, I wanted to share some tips. Here are the top pet products we couldn’t live without when camping with dogs.
1. Garmin Sport PRO Handheld E-Collar System
The beauty of this GPS e-collar is that all three dogs can be paired to the same handheld. With a 3/4 mile working radius, you can comfortably have your dog off-leash on trails (when allowed) and around your dispersed camping sites. The features include audible tone, vibrate and 10 shock level settings to train your dog. One of my favorite features is the night light, which makes spotting the dogs easy for nighttime bathroom outings.
The adjustable collars are comfortable and waterproof and the kit comes with different-sized neck points for different levels of fur. Both the handheld controller and collars are waterproof and durable for working dogs and general use. E-collars have received a bad reputation in the past but with responsible education on the owner’s part and taking the time to train your dog with the collar, you’ll have an excellent tool for keeping your pet safe in the wilderness and for peace of mind.
2. Hurtta Trail Pack
This is a 2-for-1 deal! The Trail Pack system is a dog backpack attached to an excellent harness. If you’re going camping with dogs, why not put them to work? The saddlebags can be removed from the harness when not needed. The harness is extremely durable and contains cushioning at all the right pressure points. Having thin but large-chested dogs (German Shorthaired Pointers), it has always been difficult to find trail packs and harnesses that fit their chests without chafing. I utilize these packs for regular backpacking trips and long day hikes where the pups need to carry their own supplies.
When gearing your dog up for extended trips in the backcountry, it is important to train them ahead of time with increasing weights on shorter hikes. Make sure to identify any chafing spots and adjust the straps as needed before embarking on your hike. Dog backpacks should never be weighted more than 20% of your dog’s own weight! During my search to find the best dog backpack system for the pointers, I also tried out Ruffwear’s Palisades dog backpack. Overall, I prefer the Hurtta since the saddlebags are larger and there is more cushioning on the straps. Palisades would be great for smaller hiking/backpacking adventures — if your dog isn’t carrying much in the bags or if you have a small to medium-sized dog.
3. Gamma2 Vittles Vault Pet Food Storage
Living in the airstream has meant a minimalist lifestyle paired with being extra organized has kept my sanity. This pet food storage isn’t glamorous but it is sensible. It fits perfectly under our front dinette seating area. The screw top is easy to use and most importantly keeps the dogs out. Plus, the material is extra durable so it can handle being tossed around during driving and being loaded in/out all year round. The biggest bonus: It keeps odors contained, which is important for decreasing the chances of wildlife coming to investigate our campsite.
4. TufFlex Center Ring Collars
When assembling your dog camping gear, you may want to consider a collar that’s more durable than the one you use on daily walks around the block. While your pet might not be the hunting dog that usually shops at this online retailer, I have found these collars to be the absolute best on the market. The material is extremely durable and it doesn’t ever get wet or have an odor. All collars come with a free nameplate with up to four lines of text — super important if your pup wanders off. The link brings you over to a center ring-style collar.
Hunting dogs wear these a bit loosely so that if they get caught up they can move around and usually unhook from the branch or back out of the collar completely. The O ring in the middle of the collar allows for the pivoting that a normal collar would not. If your dog is routinely running through a brush or is a working dog, then this would be a great collar choice. Otherwise, their standard D ring style would work great, too.
5. Whyld River Ultralight Dog Sleeping Bag
Being warm and toasty in a sleeping bag is what camping is all about. But have you ever been cold camping? Yeah, it sucks! So why let your pup go through that? I’ve tested several dog sleeping bags that are on the market and so far this has been my absolute favorite feature-wise and the one the dogs have gravitated towards the most. The bag end can be cinched down to provide more warmth in colder temps. Of all the products I’ve tested, this is the only bag that is filled with true duck down, which is fantastic when it comes to keeping your dog warm. One thing to note: Down loses all its warming abilities when wet. So make sure your pet is dry before heading to bed. While the target market is for ultralight backpacking, I do believe it serves its purpose during any camping trip. My dogs love to snuggle up in their bags while sitting on a camp chair around the campfire. Size up if your dog likes to sprawl out a bit!
6. Chuckit Sport Launcher Dog Toy
I don’t go anywhere without this ball thrower, which eliminates having to touch the nasty dog saliva and dirt-covered exterior of retrieved balls. Plus, I can easily sit in my camp chair and send the dogs off running all afternoon. Last but not least, you’ll save your back from not having to bend over to pick the ball up every time. The dogs love this toy and start jumping for joy the minute I pick it up. Really, if you’re going camping with a dog, this is a must-have item for your pack.
Read More: Our Favorite Pet Products for 2022
7. Musher’s Secret Paw Wax
Keeping your dog’s paws happy when out in the backcountry is important. This wax treatment is applied to the paw pads to keep them hydrated and protect them from whatever surfaces they might be hiking on. I’ve tried dog booties for hiking and the dogs hate them and typically run right out of them. Musher’s wax has helped prevent damage to their pads and helps keep snow from sticking to our newest dog’s longer coat. Pro tip: Grab the largest jar size you can find. That way you can stick the paw right into the jar, twist to apply then finish the job by rubbing it in with your fingers. After application, let them chill on the floor or other easily cleanable surfaces while the wax soaks in.
8. Seresto Dog Collars
No list of camping accessories would be complete without some type of pest repellent. Keep your pet safe from fleas and ticks by using a Seresto collar. These are small, flexible collars that don’t emit any odors or leave greasy residues that work for up to 8 months for preventing ticks or fleas. Ticks that become attached are killed within 6 hours! More than likely, you’ll never even know there was one in the first place. If you have dogs that love to swim, change out the collars more often. While they are water resistant, they do lose effectiveness the more often your dog is wet. I usually changed them each season. Always reach out and purchase through your vet to make sure you are getting the correct product.
9. Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch System
For dogs who tend to wander or for when campgrounds require dogs to be on a leash, this dog tie-out system is fantastic. String the runner rope between two trees or a tree and your car. The system can easily be tensioned and then attach your dog’s leash to the runner. Now they can explore on their own without disappearing and are less likely to get all tangled up in the picnic table. When it’s time to head home, everything can be easily stored in the attached storage bag.
And — because why not? — here are a couple of additional photos of my dogs and our camping adventures.
After Traveling the Country, Here Are the 21 Van Camping Accessories I Can’t Live Without